If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Harrison Ford, what a guy. Not only does he rule as Han Solo in the Star Wars films, he also rocked as Indiana Jones, and he killed it as Dr. Richard Kimble (in which he should have been nominated for an Academy Award) in The Fugitive. But here we have Harrison Ford, 5 years before The Fugitive's arrival, standing as Dr. Richard Walker. Unfortunately, his wife has mysteriously disappeared (so she's not murdered right away, she's just missing). The plot is definitely familiar territory, but it's refreshing enough in it's sublime direction and acting that it prevails tremendously well in the long run.
Harrison Ford, I should start every single sentence with this guy's name attached to the front. He's an extraordinary actor who constantly delivers fine performances with ease and this particular performance is no exception, I only wish that he would delve back into these kind of thrillers again (instead of capping his legendary career off with the forgettable Morning Glory and Cowboys & Aliens). Yes, the recent Ford thriller was Firewall (and yes, it was forgettable), but let's forget about that brainless shlock and turn focus back on the kind of thriller that Frantic really is: it's simply a captivating one that holds your attention all the way through. Main reason for this being that Ford delivers one of his very best performances as the sometimes clueless doctor in a desperate search for his loving wife.
What's fascinating about the movie is that it's so much about the desperate search for the good doctor's wife that it ends up becoming an excellent character study on staying loyal to those you truly love (even when they are gone). Roman Polanski is a fine filmmaker who constantly takes me by surprise in the way he tells such polarizing stories of terribly unlucky people surviving in terribly dangerous times. With that in mind, what a brilliant choice is was to cast an actor like Ford in a role like this. Polanski uses the man to great effect, as he places him in a number of perilous situations that may keep you sitting on the edge of your seat throughout. Watch out for the excellent scene where he has to climb over a rooftop in order to get inside his friend's locked apartment.
Although the story seems similar to The Fugitive, it often has more in common with Witness than it does with the 1993 classic. Much like Ford's love interest in Witness, he now has to hold himself back from loving the extremely beautiful and sultry Michelle; who is the main reason behind his wife's disappearance. Also, another movie connection, it's similar to the Liam Neeson film Unknown (where a suitcase helped put things in-motion) where he too was a doctor (or was he?). The story is certainly familiar but, unlike Unknown, it doesn't go for cheap plot-devices and meander on unimportant plot points that serve no purpose at the end of the picture.
If there's anything holding the flick back, both the beginning and ending of the film are pretty lackluster. The middle chunk of it is where the real fun is had as we get to follow Harrison Ford in a role that feels real, a man who's brave and good of heart. Ford shines in a minute-or-so-long, one-take scene where he calls up his children and the expression on his face alone seals the deal. A number of scenes in here achieve a rare kind of brilliance that is rarely seen in Hollywood pictures of these modern times, that kind of brilliance that shines from a true visionary like Roman Polanski: a flawed, but marvellous filmmaker (besides which brilliant artists aren't a little cuckoo in the heads somewhat). This film is pretty great.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5
OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS: WITNESS, THE FUGITIVE, THE GHOST WRITER